Traditionally speaking, the construction industry has been and remains a male-dominated space. But after the extraordinary readjustments made by the construction industry throughout the turmoil of the last two years, surely we have proved our ability to adapt to changing circumstances? Now must be the time to increase the industry’s diversity and open itself up to the full pool of talent available to it as we move further towards the challenges of the 21st century.
Between 80-90% of those working in the construction industry identify as men, in an industry which has long attempted to broaden its appeal to people from all walks of life. Only 15% of tradespeople working in the industry in 2022 are women, while a mere 2% of those working onsite are women. 6% of tradespeople are from a Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background, and the same percentage of tradespeople have a disability.
While it is unclear what the total number of people who identify as LGBTQ+ working in construction is, a study by the Chartered Institute of Building claims that around 60% of those who answered have experienced homophobic or derogatory comments based on their sexuality. In this day and age, this is surely unsatisfactory.
So what can the construction industry do to change?
The LCL Awards have recently announced the foundation of an initiative which puts this progressive intention on the front page of the construction world, by offering an Inclusivity Charter to which training centres can sign up. This represents a commitment to upholding values of inclusivity, and striving to improve the training conditions for trainees from underrepresented groups.
LCL Awards have partnered with Hattie Hasan MBE, the celebrated plumber who founded the first all-female plumbing company Stopcocks Women Plumbers, and introduced a Register of Tradeswomen in 2021. She has been campaigning tirelessly for increased representation of women in the industry, and has spoken openly about her experiences of “first-hand sexism and ignorance when it comes to being a ‘female plumber’”.
Her inspiring workshops cover important topics. Not only does she advocate for inclusivity, tolerance, and equality in the workplace – these are the bottom line – but Hasan educates all workers on the possibility for inevitable unconscious biases which can surface in a male-dominated environment.
She illustrates the circumstances in which voices from underrepresented groups can go unheard, and offers advice for training centres on dealing with conflict, or on how to construct flexible courses which suit the needs of all, and how these courses should be delivered and represented.
Importantly, she suggests ways that training centres can “demonstrate their inclusive values through their websites and other marketing materials”, and actively promote the values they claim to hold.
This might involve offering flexible online courses for trainees competing with a busy working or parenting schedule to complete at evenings or weekends, or on a part-time basis. The design of courses and the institutions must commit to having awareness of the needs of all underrepresented groups, and to advertise this to potential students.
This is a valuable example of training centres not only creating welcoming conditions for tradespeople from underrepresented groups, but actively promoting these conditions and changing people’s perceptions of the industry.
Because where better place to tackle this issue than in the training centres responsible for procuring the next generation of tradespeople? The values, practices, and principles of equality must be fully ingrained in the centres which harbour each new wave of skilled construction workers passing through our doors. This means that our training centres must promote a welcoming, safe, thriving environment for people from all backgrounds, all walks of life, and all creeds. Hasan adds:
“Training is the first step in most people’s careers, so getting this bit right in terms of ensuring people feel they can move into a sector that might not be considered “the norm” is crucial. [...] An inclusive environment increases diversity in training centres, LCL Awards centres can attract more learners from more different backgrounds, and help to dispel myths that trainees may have too”.
But this is, of course, the bottom line of any workplace in Britain today. It goes without saying that tolerance of all people is a fundamental expectation of how our society should function. We need to go beyond this: to actively encourage and attract people who might never consider themselves suitable or welcome in a traditionally male-dominated industry. We cannot passively wait for under-represented groups to come to us -– we need to seek them out and promote the new face of a diverse, equal and inclusive construction industry.
It is important to emphasise that this concerted effort to change the face of construction is not a case of box-ticking, or diversity for diversity’s sake. As Mark Krull, director of LCL Awards states, “we’re not paying lip-service here”. It is essential that those serving our communities as tradespeople represent those communities; for the construction industry to thrive and adapt, it must open itself up to attract talent from thus far underrepresented pools.
And of course, improving equality and diversity in the construction industry will ultimately prove of great benefit to the industry itself; its productivity, its innovation, its efficiency. A diverse supply chain will also mean better support networks for small businesses, greater community involvement, improved on-site working relationships, and will generate a culture of understanding and celebration of people’s cultural differences.
Access Training is fully committed to applying these standards of equality, diversity and inclusivity to all of our training centres, ensuring that no individual is discriminated against based on gender, gender identity, age, race, religion, or any of the nine protected characteristics listed under the UK Equalities Act 2010.
Nor will we stop at the standards at which we’ve reached, but will continue to listen and promote the needs of those underrepresented voices who want to become qualified tradespeople.
It is our duty to those people, and to the wider construction industry itself, that these people feel welcome and able to hone their craft in absolute safety. If you consider yourself among an underrepresented group, we assure you – you are welcome at Access Training.
Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.